Activist’s killing in Karbala sparks protests in several Iraqi cities

File – A demonstrator holds an Iraqi flag (Anadolu Agency)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The assassination of an Iraqi activist in Karbala sparked protests in several cities in Iraq on Sunday, according to news agencies.  

Ihab al-Wazni, a leading Iraqi anti-government activist, was shot overnight outside his home by men on motorbikes, in an ambush caught on surveillance cameras.

Wazni was a vocal opponent of corruption, the stranglehold of Tehran-linked armed groups and Iran’s influence in Iraq.

He narrowly escaped death in December 2019, when men on motorbikes used silenced weapons to kill fellow activist Fahem al-Tai as he was dropping him in Karbala.

Protests broke out in Karbala, Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah in southern Iraq in reaction to Wazni’s killing, as people called for an end to the bloodshed and to rampant corruption, according to AFP.

Anadolu Agency cited eyewitnesses as saying that hundreds of local residents took to streets in Karbala to condemn the killing of the activist.

“It is the Iranian militias who killed Ihab,” AFP quoted unnamed activist as saying. “They are going to kill all of us! They threaten us and the government remains silent.”

Police said they would “spare no effort to find the terrorists” behind his killing.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the ministry of interior agencies to quickly find the perpetrators during a Council of Ministers’ meeting on Sunday.

“The criminals have failed in their attempt to create chaos and tend to target unarmed activists, but the law will hold them accountable others have fallen in the grip of justice before,” he said.

Around 30 activists have died in targeted killings and dozens of others abducted, some detained briefly, since October 2019, AFP reported.

“Such crimes against activists in Iraq raise again the question about the real steps of the government regarding accountability for… [those] responsible for crimes” targeting protesters, Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, tweeted Sunday.

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